Pres Leath Address 011.jpg

University President Steven Leath gives his annual address within the Great Hall of the Memorial Union on Sep. 14.

Iowa State President Steven Leath on several occasions used a second university-owned plane to fly to his home in North Carolina, go on trips with a celebrity bowhunter for fundraising and fly relatives to a men's basketball game, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. 

The new revelations from the AP this week follow criticism from a hard-landing in 2015 that resulted in nearly $12,000 in damages to another university-owned plane that Leath was able to pilot himself. 

Leath, who is certified to pilot one of the planes, said in a statement last week that he will no longer fly any state-owned aircraft. New questions have now been raised following Tuesday's reporting that Leath also used the university's larger King Star plane.

The flights revealed Tuesday cost the university tens of thousands of dollars in private donations, according to the AP, that could be used for other priorities, and potentially violates policies that require other travel expenditures.

Leath said last week that the he did not violate university policy or state law, which Warren Madden, senior vice president emeritus, backed in a letter to the Iowa State Daily.

"In the context of a long discussion, with a reporter about the history of the ISU Flight Service Department, I stated that according to ISU policy, university aircraft should not be used for purely personal purposes," Madden wrote. "While this is true, nothing I have known or have read about President Leath’s use of Flight Service or university aircraft is in violation of ISU policy.

"When ISU employees travel for university business, the university pays for the transportation expenses related to the travel. This is true even if the employee conducts personal activities while on the trip."

Megan Landolt, assistant for communications for Leath, told the Daily Tuesday night that his use of the plane "has proven to be tremendously beneficial to the university."

His use of the plane, mixing personal and official university business, allows him to represent Iowa State "in a flexible, efficient way," she said.

Iowa Code, section 721.2, however, "prohibits any state employee from using, or permitting any other person to use, property owned by the state or any subdivision or agency of the state for any private purpose or for personal gain to the detriment of the state. Violation of this statute is a serious misdemeanor."

According to the AP from records acquired from the university website, which have now been removed, Leath and his wife, Janet, have also taken the university's larger King Air plane, which is required to be flown by two school pilots.

Leath once took his brother Ken and sister-in-law on the plane to watch the Iowa State men's basketball team play Connecticut in 2014 in the Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden, in which they stopped to refuel in Horseheads, New York, allowing Leath's family to fly along at no extra cost, according to the AP. 

The couple was dropped off after the game for another fuel stop.

Another instance of Leath's plane usage involves his 11-day trip to North Carolina in July 2015, the trip that later resulted in the plane damage, where he and his wife often visit and entertain donors.

John McCarroll, executive director of University Relations, told the Daily last week that the trip included personal business, but Leath met with potential donors to Iowa State, making the trip part-official school business, part-personal.

Madden defended this statement by the university in his letter, "For example, an employee may need to be in Chicago for a Monday meeting but choose to go on Friday afternoon and spend the weekend visiting family or spend some vacation time after the meeting, extending their time in Chicago.

"Because the Monday meeting is university business, the transportation costs associated with traveling to and from Chicago would be covered by the university, regardless of the personal activities of the employee." 

The AP reports that one stop the plane made in Jefferson, where Leath's home is, was to take advantage of "competitive fuel pricing" at its airport on the way from San Antonio to Washington, D.C.

But other trips to Jefferson, according to the AP, were for donor meetings or to pick up Leath for travel to other events. The university has not been reimbursed for any of those trips, and there are no plans to do so.

In one case, university pilots dropped off the Leaths in Jefferson after fundraising in Florida, but were dispatched to fly him to Dallas a week later instead of taking a commercial flight. The total cost was $6,900, according to the AP.

"One could argue that it is not an efficient use of the President’s time to spend two hours in a car driving to said airport, where he must arrive at least an hour before take-off," Landolt said. "Other considerations include the President’s transportation to the airport and the departure and arrival time of the flight."

Other flights Leath took, according to the AP:

  • Taking professional archer John Dudley on four donor-funded trips that have mixed university business with hunting. Dudley, with no apparent ties to Iowa State, has flown for free.
  • Taking Ames real estate agent Dean Hunziker on the plane for hunting trips to Texas and Indiana with Leath as part of talks with investor Steve Hageman to build private university housing — a proposal that hasn't panned out.

The AP reported that most of Leath's flights have been billed to the "Greater University Fund," which are unrestricted donations to the Iowa State Foundation.

The AP reported that the two-university planes were bought with the "Greater University Fund," which is a pot of donations to the Iowa State Foundation for the university's "most critical needs."

Landolt said that reporting is not accurate. She said the King Air was a priority for the athletics department and discretionary funds used by the Iowa State Foundation were designated for athletics' priorities. 

Iowa State originally said in a news release on Sept. 23 that both planes were acquired using unrestricted private funds managed by the ISU Foundation. The foundation purchased the King Air and gifted it to the university and the university purchased the Cirrus SR22, according to the release.

No taxpayer money was used to acquire either aircraft, according to the release.

The ISU flight program, which Madden referenced earlier, charges $4.52 per mile flown to recover costs from the fund, which was also used to purchase the two university planes for $2.9 million in 2014. The program charges $650 per day if pilots are required to have a layover.

"University Flight Service has been an important tool of the university for decades. With the increasing demands on the University President, I presume it will continue to be an important form of transportation," Madden wrote.

The AP also reported Monday that the FAA retested Leath's flight skills after his hard landing, and Leath had satisfactory results that allowed him to keep his pilot certificate. 

(2) comments

junior ionut

Friends and family commonly hold offline raffles at their local community centers as a way to raise money for a loved one who needs help with medical bills. If you are the party type, you can use the selling salsa technique. Another tactic that has worked really well for our past users is to pick a date and ask people to each give a specific dollar amount on that date. For example, you may ask your Facebook group or email list to donate $15 on the 15th of January. Asking for a certain amount of money on a certain date helps because it creates an extra sense of urgency and makes thing more tangible for your donors.

Amanda Baird

Iowa State University had no clear need to spend $498,000 in donations to buy an airplane that former President Steven Leath used largely to improve his piloting skills, instead of checking out united business class fares nyc. Iowa State should also consider seeking reimbursement from Leath, now president of Auburn University, for a 2016 spring break trip in which a university pilot dropped him off at his North Carolina home.

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